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About Writing Right: The Blog


I was thumbing through some beginning writers' questions about who is responsible for typos that appear in a published book. I was astonished at the ridiculous and outright incorrect responses some advisers gave. Here's what I had to say on the matter.

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On what planet do these respondents live, and how many of them have actually worked as full-time freelance authors and editors? It's disheartening, to say the least, to see a "V.P. of Programs" at some apparent writers' group put the blame on everyone but the person who deserves it. Wow. Not the first time this Oklahoma author has been grossly disappointed by this Oklahoma group that seems to fire from the hip far more often than from the brain. You know, just like the Queen of Wrong does? Maybe it's something in the water down here. Regardless, this is the unvarnished truth.


First, you're apparently living in a one-world universe while all experienced writers exist in a dual modality. What the freak am I talking about? I'm glad you asked.


As most beginning authors asking questions do, you neglected to clarify if you're talking about self-published books or conventionally published books. There is no one-size-fits-all response unless the respondent knows that. If you're talking about self-published books, the answer is simple. You are to blame. It's your baby, and you're responsible for making sure that everything is ship-shape and ready to go before you hit the "publish" button. Got that? Good.


Now, if you're talking about conventionally published books where the publisher pays you an advance and then assigns a fact checker (in the case of nonfiction books), a first-round editor, and a second-round editor to your book, you could easily expect to justify blaming them for missing those typos. Certainly, missed typos are not what one would expect from professional editors.


With that said, despite the contributing culpability of those professionals, you as the book's author have a chance to review all the work they do before signing off on publication. In short, you proof their proofing. That makes you, once again, the primary guilty party here, regardless of how many typos the publisher's editors catch or miss.


Remember: As the author, you have the final say as to what goes in the book and what doesn't (within reason and contractual obligations—read the fine print!). That means you bear all responsibility. In a way, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Self-published or conventionally published, the only difference is that, in the former, you shoulder all the blame. In the latter, you get to split the blame among others. In either case, any poor reflection on the book ultimately falls upon you. Whose name is on the book's cover? Theirs? Or yours?


Now, then, do we understand one another? Good.


As for all those respondents who missed the boat on this one, as simple as it was to catch, my advice to you is to drink less and think more before responding. Shame on everyone who failed to think things through before offering such "expert" advice.

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D. J. Herda is author of the new series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available in eBook, paperback, and hardcover formats at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack.com.

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